STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - During coach James Franklin's search for a new offensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions, he and Joe Moorhead talked 30 to 40 times. One of his most memorable conversations with the former Fordham coach, Franklin said Wednesday, was an interview that was pushed back due to a delayed flight.
It began at 10:17 p.m., Moorhead recalled, and for more than four hours he and Franklin talked about every aspect of their coaching philosophies. The interview concluded at 2:47 a.m.
Moorhead, 42, impressed Franklin with his passion and his track record over four seasons at Fordham. On Saturday, it became official: Moorhead would become Penn State's offensive coordinator. Franklin introduced Moorhead, a Pittsburgh native, on Wednesday in a news conference at Beaver Stadium.
"I'm very thrilled to be here at Penn State," Moorhead said. "It's a tremendous opportunity for myself and my family, professionally and personally, coming back close to home."
"I'm fired up about Joe and his family, and them joining our Penn State family," Franklin said.
Moorhead replaces John Donovan, who was fired after the team's loss to Michigan State last month. Franklin said letting go of Donovan was "probably one of the more difficult things that I've ever had to do."
The firing came at the end of a regular season that left Penn State ranked 101st in the FBS in scoring and 125th (out of 127 FBS teams) in third-down conversions.
While Franklin acknowledged Moorhead will inherit some challenges, Moorhead voiced confidence that the offense will improve under his leadership.
"We have a base offensive system or structure that we believe in," Moorhead said. "We really want the trademarks of our offense. We want to dictate the tempo. We want to be aggressive. We want to be attacking. We want to be physical in the run game."
Moorhead will now spend time meeting with each returning offensive player, getting to know the coaching staff, and observing practice. Moorhead will not play a role in game-planning for Penn State's Jan. 2 matchup with Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl, during which quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne will call the plays.
As Penn State welcomes a new offensive coordinator, rumors swirl that Lions' linebacker coach Brent Pry is a top candidate for the head coaching job at Georgia Southern. Franklin offered high praise for Pry on Wednesday.
"I'm a huge Brent Pry fan. I don't think he gets enough credit," said Franklin, who became emotional discussing his loyalty to Pry. "Not only is he extremely valuable to our staff, but he's one of my best friends,"